Definition of deserts in English:


plural noun

  • What a person deserves with regard to reward or (more usually) punishment.

    ‘the penal system fails to punish offenders in accordance with their deserts’
    • ‘We must not demand justice if we are to see it anywhere; above all, we must not compare our deserts or rewards with those of others.’
    • ‘These are viewed as fair outcomes, as just deserts or rewards for differences in ability, skill or effort, within the framework of a competitive market.’
    • ‘Commentators talk about deserving a result, precisely because there's such a wide gap between deserts and rewards.’
    • ‘It would be our just deserts for being so ‘arrogant’.’
    reward, recompense, requital, retribution
    View synonyms


If a person gets their just deserts they get what they deserve. Deserts here is related to deserve, and is spelled with one -s- in the middle; a dessert is a sweet course eaten at the end of a meal. The -ss- spelling in the sense ‘what a person deserves’ is regarded as an error, although in the Oxford English Corpus it is as common as the correct spelling


Middle English: via Old French desert, from deservir serve well (see deserve).